The Nashville Predators dropped their second consecutive overtime decision 1-0 to the Calgary Flames at the Bridgestone Arena. While the loss of the game hurts, the Predators face a potentially more hurtful loss as defenseman Ryan Suter was injured on his first shift of the game in a collision with Cory Sarich and did not return to the game.
Suter was racing to the red line to clear the puck and suffered a knee injury when he was run into by Sarich. Suter was not in a good position to take the hit and crumpled to the ice after taking what appeared to be a knee on knee hit. He struggled to get to the bench and had to be helped off the ice as the play continued.
Since the Predators only dressed six defensemen, the remaining five blueliners had to log some serious ice time. Shea Weber led all of the Preds D-men with 29:11 of ice time.
This was a choppy game all night. The Predators had decent effort, but frankly, the execution was lacking all night. Passes were not crisp and the Predators had a difficult time sustaining consistent offensive pressure. When the Predators did mount some offense, Calgary netminder Mikka Kiprusoff was solid in goal, shutting off any Predator scoring opportunities.
The Predators offense welcomed back Marty Erat, who had missed the last three games with back spasms. It was obvious that Marty was rusty as he never generated much in the offensive zone.
Like Erat, the Predators also had starting netminder Pekka Rinne between the pipes. Unlike Erat, Rinne was solid and showed no ill effects from missing three games with an injured knee. Rinne made several key stops when Calgary threatened.
With only five defenders, the Predators did a good job of keeping Calgary to the outside for a good part of the game. The Predators kept Calgary off the board in regulation and outshot the Flames 34-32.
The Predators were outshot 3-0 in the overtime period, and Rene Bourque got the game winner at 2:10 of the overtime period as he gathered in a Brendan Morrison shot in the low slot and beat Rinne. With the victory, Calgary has now won five straight contests in Nashville.
The Predators went 0-5 on the power play, mustering only nine shots for their effort. This, in my opinion, was the turning point of the game.
Head Coach Barry Trotz said after the game that the team did not have much "poise with the puck", and that was evident throughout the night. Passes were not sharp and decisions with the puck were not good. This prevented the Predators from establishing any consistent offensive flow.
The Predators were fortunate to get a point out of this contest, an effort that was definitely not their best. The top lines are going to have to gel and make good puck decisions.Offensive zone presence and pressure from the top six forwards has to improve for this team to get back on track.
Obviously, the concern is for the health of Suter. The loss of a steady, puck moving defenseman had a negative psychological effect on the team, but injuries are part of the game and this team has to show resilience in the face of the adversity that they are facing.
The value of a game like this is that it exposes the weaknesses that must be strengthened. It demonstrates clearly that Predator hockey is a formula for success, and failure to play their game will lead to more disappointment.
The character of this team will be tested. Two disappointing OT losses and mounting injuries will test the boys.
This is the time to rise to the occasion.